By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Wisconsin is no stranger to making the news, especially when it regards the state’s politics. The state recently made headlines again after the Republican-controlled Assembly made plans to repeal the mask mandate.
The mask mandate, which was issued by Gov. Tony Evers, requires Wisconsinites 5 and older to wear a mask when in public as part of the state’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. The mandate was extended earlier this month and is now scheduled to expire on March 20, 2021.
In response to the extension, the Republican legislators wanted to vote to repeal the mandate. However, the vote was canceled on Thursday, Jan. 28.
Legislators in favor of the repeal faced criticism from the state’s health, school and business leaders, according to the AP News. The media outlet further reported that repealing the mandate could cost the state $49 million a month in federal aid in the form of federal food assistance for low-income people.
“Their inaction on unemployment cost $25 million last year, and this latest stunt could mean $49 million in lost food benefits for families when they need it most,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes tweeted on Thursday, Jan. 28 from his @TheOtherMandela account. “Either they didn’t know or didn’t care. Either way, the unchecked hubris in the way they operated is costing real dollars and livelihoods.”
AP News reported that the COVID-19 aid bill Congress passed last year stipulates that states may receive federal aid, but only if they have emergency health orders in effect. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that federal aid from the COVID-19 package went toward food stamps.
AP News reported that nearly 243,000 households in Wisconsin received the $49.3 million in federal assistance this month, as stated in a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
Speaker Robin Vos was the one to cancel the vote. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Vos said he wants to review the implications of the repeal.
According to AP News, Vos said he was caught by surprise and was unaware of the issue concerning federal funding until the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee voiced its concern.
The Hunger Task Force made a statement on Twitter following the announcement that the vote had been canceled.
“Our voices were heard today! Thanks to advocacy work by Hunger Task Force and the Hunger Relief Federation, the WI State Assembly halted the vote on the repeal of the mask mandate, which also would have caused a significant loss of FoodShare for families.”
The vote is only temporarily canceled and could be brought up again next week. In the meantime, Wisconsinites are asked to wear a mask if they are in public and indoors and encouraged to wear a mask if outdoors.